DECEMBER 11, 1995
Waiting for the Senna Report
THE Italian justice system might be winning battles against corruption and the Mafia, but it is not impressing Formula 1 with its handling of the inquiry into the death of Ayrton Senna on May 1, 1994.
Nineteen months after Senna's death the investigating magistrate Maurizio Passarini has still been unable to reach a conclusion as to the cause of the crash, although there have been constant leaks which suggest that there was some form of a steering failure. If this was not in doubt the report would probably have been published by now - as stories of a steering failure first emerged as long ago as August, 1994. A similar story was revived this weekend by a British national newspaper.
Williams has maintained a discreet silence about the investigation, saying that it will not comment until the report is made official and the Italians decide what action - if any - they plan to take against the team.
If the report concludes that there was a technical failure, Williams is virtually certain to contest the findings as the team has never been given the opportunity to inspect the car and deduce what it believes caused the crash. Team members have privately told F1 FOREIGN REPORT that they believe that the steering broke during the impact with the wall and that the crash was caused by Senna losing control of the car after it hit a series of bumps on the inside of Tamburello Corner, as Senna tried desperately to keep ahead of Michael Schumacher's Benetton.
After the accident, Schumacher said that Senna "just lost it." He said that he had noticed Senna's car bottoming out over the bumps at that point. The German added that the rear of Senna's car had jumped off-line on the lap prior to the crash, but Senna had caught the car. On the lap of the crash the rear jumped out again but this time Senna did not catch it.
On the evening of the crash Williams's technical director Patrick Head said: "We have some electronic recording data from the car. We don't have any indication of anything breaking but, from the telemetry, we know that Senna lifted off a little. That caused a loss of downforce to the rear wing, which meant that the car went straight on."
If Williams is adjudged to be to blame there could be serious repercussions for international racing events in Italy because teams will not be keen to race there if there is a possibility of criminal charges in the case of an accident. The FIA is believed to have already warned the Automobile Club of Italy that it may have to campaign to change the law if Williams runs into legal trouble over the Senna accident.